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British singer George Michael has sadly passed away at age 53. The pop star was found in his home in Goring-on-Thames in England on Christmas Day and while his cause of death has not been identified, it’s not being ruled as suspicious.
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London in 1963, Michael went to school with Andrew Ridgeley, whom Michael would later form the popular duo Wham! alongside in 1981. The band became an international success with the release of their 1984 singles “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Freedom” and “Careless Whisper.” The band also topped the charts with their hugely popular holiday track “Last Christmas.” The duo officially split in 1986.
As a solo artist, Michael won a Grammy in 1987 for the duet “I Knew You Were Waiting” with Aretha Franklin. He also released his debut solo album Faith that year, which helped Michael become a bona fide international popstar and sex symbol. Thanks to his songs “Faith,” “One More Try,” “Father Figure,” and “I Want Your Sex,” as well as his groundbreaking music videos, Michael helped bring attention to the growing AIDS epidemic. The album won the Grammy for Album of the Year and “Father Figure” took home the MTV VMA for Best Direction in a Video. In 1989, Michael was the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award at the MTV VMAs.
George Michael went on to release six more studio albums, with his most recent disc Symphonic arriving in 2014.
In 2011, Michael had to cancel part of his Symphonica Tour due to a viral infection and pneumonia that landed him in intensive care. Throughout his career, the singer made headlines for runs in with the law for sex, drinking and drug offenses.
A vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights, Michael publicly came out in 2007.
In 2011, George Michael teamed up with James Corden to cover New Order’s “True Faith” for the charity event Comic Relief. The segment became the original Carpool Karaoke skit that Corden would later bring to The Late Late Show.
Known for his generosity, George Michael donated millions of dollars to charity. A proud Brit, he recorded Stevie Wonder’s “You And I” as a wedding present to Prince William and Kate Middleton, with the proceeds from the sale going to the couple’s charity.
Millions of fans and celebrity friends have begun publicly sharing their memories and feelings of heartbreak over George Michaels’ death.
Oh God no …I love you George …Rest In Peace x
— Robbie Williams (@robbiewilliams) December 26, 2016
Farewell My Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us. Can 2016 Fuck Off NOW? pic.twitter.com/aEGIUNSJbt
— Madonna (@Madonna) December 26, 2016
RIP George Michael. So good-humoured and self-deprecating when he joined us in Extras. 2016 just won’t give us a break
— Stephen Merchant (@StephenMerchant) December 26, 2016
Very sad to hear that George Michael passed. He was a very talented musician and singer. Love & mercy to his family, friends and fans.
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) December 25, 2016
— ADAM LAMBERT (@adamlambert) December 25, 2016
Rest in peace George. You were always one of the greatest.
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) December 26, 2016
Another beautiful voice gone too soon. #ripgeorgemichael
— josh groban (@joshgroban) December 26, 2016
I just heard about my friend @GeorgeMichael‘s death. He was such a brilliant talent. I’m so sad.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 25, 2016
Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael. You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 25, 2016
I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember. He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.
— James Corden (@JKCorden) December 25, 2016
So sad to hear of George Michael passing. Beautiful inside and out. Thank you for the music
— Leona Lewis (@leonalewis) December 26, 2016
George Michael was a kind and gentle soul. #Wham
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) December 26, 2016
R.I.P George Michael. Beyond sad, you were a legend, and you were far too young. Blasting “Last Christmas” now
— OneRepublic (@OneRepublic) December 25, 2016
other than a global pop phenom, George Michael was one of the true British soul greats. alot of us owe him an unpayable debt. bye George xx
— Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) December 25, 2016
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) December 25, 2016
i bought Listen Without Prejudice the day it came out, which happened to be my 15th birthday. even when i put it on now, hearing the opening chords of “praying for time”—the opening tune, i can picture the exact shade of yellow paint that covered my teenage bedroom. it all comes back to me in pure technicolour. that’s how much of a mark that song left on me. i had never heard a musical language quite like that before. later, when i discovered the 70’s masterworks of Stevie Wonder, i started to understood where George got it from. but at that point, to my naive musical knowledge, it blew the doors open. it prepared me for Stevie in a way. later on, as a DJ in hip-hop clubs in New York City in the late 90’s, George/Wham’s “Everything She Wants” was one of maybe three or four tunes by white artists that you could follow MJ, Frankie Beverly or Roy Ayers with. the keyboard lick from “Father Figure” comprised the bones for the Jungle Bros.’ classic, underground club destroyer “J Beez Comin’ Through”. So while “Faith” and the like made George a global phenom, another side of his genius as singer, writer, producer and arranger made him a bonafide giant of soul music. as did most soul afficionados, George had a huge affinity for the music of Amy Winehouse. i imagine he felt more than a little kindred spiritness to some of the personal stuff too. Anyway, as a result of my ties to Amy, he called me once. i was on holiday exactly around this time 9 years ago. he told me he had a few soulful tunes left off of Faith that he never got to finish and asked if i would be interested in working on them. i remember one of the songs was absolutely flooring, as good as any pop/soul ballad of the era. i said of course i would be interested—all the while in complete disbelief that i was actually on the phone with GEORGE MICHAEL. i don’t know why, for some reason it never materialized. i hope one day i might get to, but i really dreamed of being in the room with him while i did. this is a tough day in a brutal year. but i’m so grateful for what he left us xxx
So sorry to hear about George Michael’s passing. Brilliant icon. “Kissing a Fool” one of my all time favs. Strength & light to his family.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) December 26, 2016
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) December 26, 2016
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) December 25, 2016
RIP George Michael
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) December 25, 2016
RIP George Michael. I can’t believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us #georgemichael
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) December 25, 2016
RIP George Michael.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) December 25, 2016
Another incredible talent gone. Thank you for all the music Mr George Michael. Thoughts with your family and friends…
— Disclosure (@disclosure) December 25, 2016